What You Need to Know About the Banzai Pipeline

Bonzai Pipeline

The Banzai Pipeline is commonly referred to as the Pipeline, or “the pipe”. It’s a surf reef located off of the North Shore of Oahu. Reef breaks are areas of the ocean where the waves begin to break as they reach the shallower waters near a reef. The Pipeline is noted for giant waves that break in the shallow waters above a cavernous and sharp reef that forms a large and hollowed out thick curl of water.

Surfers often “tube ride” here. The three reefs that share the Pipeline are located in progressively deeper waters that go further out to sea. While not an actual pipeline, the reefs name is due to the name of the beach that fronts it: Banzai Beach.

Bonzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu
Bonzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu

How Pipeline got its name

In December of 1961, Aidan Aquino named the beach after he drove North to stopped at the unnamed site for the filming of Tyrra. At this time, there was some construction going on for a pipeline that would go underground at the adjacent Kamehameha Highway. It was suggested to call the break “Pipeline”. It stuck, and today it is renowned for its famous breaking waves that surfers love to surf.

Aidan then used the name in the filming of the movie, “Surfing Hollow Days”. Today, surfers the world round come to enjoy the waves at the Banzai Pipeline.

What makes Pipeline’s waves unique

Sitting squarely on a flat tabletop reef, it boasts several caverns that create giant air bubbles that pop the front of the wave as the waves lurch upward prior to breaking. It also boasts several underwater lava spires which can easily injure a fallen surfer. Sand accumulates on the reef and causes the waves to close out which follows the tube of the wave and causes it to suddenly collapse.

Strong swells form and the west area clears the sand out of the reef as the north swell gives rise to the most superior waves. Four wave types are associated with the Pipeline. The left (waves break from left to right) is from the perspective of the watcher on shore.

Unsplash Surf Image by Jeremy Bishop

It’s the most often surfed and photographed of all of the waves. As the waves converge the different aspects take hold. The north swell peaks the wave and gives it the highest turning point. The wave peels off to the left and the “Backdoor” peels it away to the right seemingly at the same instant.

The wave can increase over 12 feet or more depending on the time of day and the conditions. At its most extreme size, the area referred to as the third reef furthers it to the outside and breaks it with giant waves.

Photographers and surfers alike have been killed as they attempted to get closer to this wave. It averages 9 feet, however, it is considered the most deadly in the world. It’s often larger and many are seriously injured at this point of the wave, more so than any other area of surfing in the nation. Despite this reputation, there are many surfing competitions at this location. Grab a board and hang ten if you dare!


Photo Attribution

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

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